Quilters are not born. They are made. Anyone can learn to quilt with a little patience and precision, and it all starts with preparing your quilt pieces the right way. Whether you are a beginning quilter, an expert, or somewhere in between, we’ve gathered some time-saving short “cuts” to confidently take your work to the next level.
1) Life’s too short for dull blades.
Keeping OLFA rotary blades and scissors sharp is the easiest, most efficient way to guarantee clean cuts every time. There are many tips and tricks out there that claim they’ll keep blades sharp, including tools like self-sharpening cutting mats. But the truth is, replacing your blades often is best if you want to do your finest work. The smartest quilters are also some of the best bargain hunters. Watch for sales, or use in-store coupon apps to stock up on blades and scissors at your favorite craft or quilting stores.
2) Make the most of cutting mats.
There are many different types of cutting mats out there that have the potential to make the cutting stage simpler than you ever thought possible. OLFA cutting mats are self-healing, keeping the mat like new as well as protecting the blades that are doing the cutting. The OLFA rotating rotary cutting mat, available in both 12″ square and 17″ square sizes, is a must-have for quilters of all levels. It allows you to turn the mat instead of the fabric, keeping cuts precise and quilt pieces consistent every time. If you are an on-the-go quilter, one essential tool is the new OLFA folding mat, also available in two sizes—12″ x 17″ and 17″ x 24″. It will quickly become your go-to portable mat because it folds to half-size to fit into most carry bags, and is designed to be completely seamless when opened.
3) Work at the correct table height.
Your cutting table is not just a place to cut fabric. But we don’t have to tell you that. Most crafters spend most of their project time at the cutting table. This is where ergonomics, which addresses optimum comfort and injury avoidance, come into play for quilters. Customizing your table height prevents hunching over or standing on tiptoes, reducing the chance of fabric and tools slipping while you’re cutting. If your table’s legs are adjustable, you’re in luck. If not, you’ll have to trim them down to lower the table height or secure blocks beneath them to raise it.
4) Buy quality fabric.
Notice we did not say, “Buy the most expensive fabric.” Pay close attention to the selvedge before making your purchase. If the pattern is not straight on the selvedge, you will never be able to make it stay straight, no matter how good your tools are. Also, fabric that is starched stiff by mills to make the pattern run straight may not hold so nicely after it goes through the wash. A clever trick is to tear your first cut before mass-producing individual pieces to ensure you are running straight on the grain.
5) Always cut pieces in order.
Improve cutting efficiency by cutting strips first, then individual pieces. After trimming off the raw edge of your fabric, cut all of the strips necessary to be sub-cut into quilt pieces. Next, use your OLFA cutting mat and OLFA ruler as guides to precisely cut each strip, using an OLFA rotary cutter, into the shapes and sizes needed for your pattern. This takes some planning, and your math skills might be tested, but it can also help guarantee that pieces are consistent in shape and size. The result: Cleaner seams when sewn, and a more professional look when finished.
There you have it. These five simple secrets will help to lay a precise, “clean-cut” foundation for your entire quilting project. After that, the rest is easy!